Bill Ede and John Gage in Cincinnati

By Bumm Doutt

On Sunday, December 3, local musicians Bill Ede and John Gage braved the cold weather in John's 1986 Toyota pickup to bring a little music to the audience at Cincinnati's Leo Coffeehouse, a weekly get-together that takes place at the Calhoun Street YMCA, near the University of Cincinnati campus. Fearing the damage that could occur to instruments left in the back of the truck, two guitars were crammed into the truck's interior, making the fit quite a tight one, but only for a short drive. Better safe than sorry, as the saying goes.

The crowd seemed a small but enthusiastic one as John and Bill and some local musicians got their instruments tuned up and their songs selected backstage.

The first of the three sets of the evening was an "open mike" that featured three local performers doing a couple of songs apiece. Bob Kotz performed Murray McLauchlin's "Child's Song," popularized in the early '70s by Tom Rush and John Prine's "The Great Compromise" from Prine's Diamonds in the Rough LP. He was followed by Bob Logsdon who performed Bob Seger's "Turn the Page," Charlie Daniels's "Long-Haired Country Boy" and Hank Williams Jr.'s "Old Habits." And finally up was Louisville Homefront veteran Walter Craft who played Ed McCurdy's peace anthem "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream," a song that has enjoyed many covers, including a version by Simon and Garfunkel. Walter closed with a blues standard that John Lee Hooker has recorded under the title "Let's Talk It Over." The same song was listed by Texas songster Mance Lipscomb as "Come Back Baby," which is the title Walter uses. The song closed out the evening's first set.

The second set of the evening featured Louisville balladeer and entertainer extraordinaire John Gage. John mixed some of his originals in with some well-chosen cover songs, including his opener, Si Kahn's "Wild Rose of the Mountain"and Kinky Friedman's "Silver Eagle Express." Originals included were "Make Way for the Light of Love" (which Bill insists is s perfect Peter, Paul and Mary song and is intent on getting the song to them by hook or by crook), "Afternoon Shadows" and "B-Minor Soliloquy." John concluded his set with the Grateful Dead's "Ripple" and, appropriately enough, Si Kahn's "What You Do With What You've Got," coming full circle as it were.

After a brief intermission, the audience was treated to a couple of songs by Maurice McCrackin, a bona fide legend in Cincinnati, with quite a colorful background. McCrackin, an ordained minister, has championed many causes over the years, including civil rights and homeless-related issues, including occupying with eight others this past July a building that the city council had in 1982 designated as for low-income families, but which was about to be turned over to a private company for business development instead. McCrackin and the others were jailed and charged with "criminal trespassing," a charge he finds quite ironic. At eighty-four, McCrackin is enjoying a bit of celebrity these days, including a book in the works about his illustrious life. The evening's M.C., Frank Renfrow, performed a song, "Outlaws for Peace," in McCrackin's honor during the intermission.

It was now time for the third and final set of the evening by Louisville singer and songwriter Bill Ede.

Ede opened with the self-penned "If This Is A Party" and continued with a mostly original set including "The first Time I've Played In A While, "Uncertain Man," "If See There Was Something I Could Do" and "A Chill in the Air." Ede non-originals performed included P.F. Sloan's "From A Distance" (not to be confused with the Julie Gold song by the same title that Nanci Griffith has more recently recorded) and Gene Thomas's "Comfort for Your Mind," in which Bill tried for some audience participation. Bill then invited John Gage back up on stage with him for a couple of John Stewart songs, "California Bloodlines" and "Some Kind of Love," before inviting Walter up as well for a trio version of Ede's "My Brother's Keeper," the evening's closing song.

After some mild socializing with members of the audience and a brief stop by Walter's for refreshments, John and Bill focused on the task at hand that of making it back to Louisville in time to get some sleep before the coming work day. Let's hope this is the first of many shared stages involving these two local artists.